Keep calm and play on

Playing The Piano… Roger Federer Style!

by Aliya Abreu

When an interviewer once asked tennis champ Roger Federer about the secret of his success, discount a very modest Roger replied with a grin, drug “Well, it’s no secret: I’m obviously very talented.”  While I laughed while watching this interview, it got me thinking about talent … success … and pianos. I said to myself—If Roger Federer were a pianist, and not a professional tennis player, no matter how talented he was, or how much he practiced, relatively no one would know his name.

There are thousands of great pianists around the world living in obscurity, and who can’t rely on piano playing to earn them their living. I believe this is the reason why a lot of people today would rather enrol their kids for electronic keyboard classes, instead of classical piano classes. The electronic keyboard has beats, and is fairly easy to carry around. The keyboardist can make a party come to life, and can accompany singers without much rehearsal. Besides, if your kid is not happy with learning the keyboard, and prefers being, you know, a rockstar, he can always go for guitar classes! Which is why you will probably tell me to go back to 1885 if I recommend learning the piano.

The piano is one of a few Western classical instruments that is taught in Goa, today. Unfortunately, there are many things that kill a child’s enthusiasm when it comes to learning the piano:

The possibility of turning 80 years old before being able to play.

It takes a long time to be able to play the piano fairly decently, say 4 to 6 years

The scales!

Practicing scales is akin to learning verbs when you’re trying to pick up a new language. Argghhh! Why can’t one simply skip the scales and create beautiful music? The same reason why it’s impossible to speak a new language fluently without learning vocabulary, grammar rules and verbs, son.

‘Friends’ of your parents.

Parents in Goa are a different cup of tea from other parents in the world. You see, they all know each other. You walk into a coffee shop with your mom, and a minimum of three ‘friends’ will walk up to say hullo. Woe to you if you are a nine-year-old kid, whose father is a musician. You will come to dread the question “Do you play anything? Like your father?” Folks, please, please refrain from asking a musician’s child if they can play or sing like their father…or mother! Remember, Roger Federer’s dad wasn’t the number one tennis player in the world!

 

It isn’t all downhill for young piano enthusiasts, however. There are lots of inspiring factors, like:

Surprisingly, exams

While a young learner’s life shouldn’t revolve round exams, exams sure help to keep one motivated. Regular piano classes are more about learning to play pieces. Exams look at the bigger picture—there are oral and listening components, sight-seeing, i.e. playing a new piece on the spot, and to top it all, you get a certificate from London, if you pass. Students in Goa usually answer exams either under the Associated Boards of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM), or the Trinity College, London. Both these examining bodies send an examiner from London to assess students, so the same quality is maintained across the globe.

Playing the compositions of famous composers

Pieces by Beethoven, Mozart, Handl, Bach and all the other greats are adapted even for beginners. This is exciting for young students as they don’t have to wait to become professionals to play famous compositions.

Keep calm and play on 

Playing the piano is therapeutic. It calms the player and is a way of relieving frustration. Like a song, a piano piece is interpreted by the musician. Even a student brings his own experience and style to the piece.

We may not be living in the Victorian era where young maidens would play the piano in the evenings to while away their time, or impress young courters. But hopefully, playing the piano will not go out of fashion for a long, long time. Granted, learning the piano doesn’t have ‘scope’ like the keyboards or guitar. But at least you will have the satisfaction that somewhere in heaven, when he hears you playing a bad rendition of his Moonlight Sonata, Beethoven will look down and give a half-smile.

P.S. Oops, I forgot Beethoven’s deaf, so he won’t hear your bad rendition. Oh well, maybe an angel will tap him on the shoulder and point to what you’re playing, and he’ll give a half-smile anyway.

P.P.S. I don’t know if this counts for anything, but Roger Federer also plays the piano during his free time. Go Roger!

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